A life geography lesson for us wanderlusters

Posted on August 19, 2009


On a spiritual tip …

Lately I’ve been dealing with an issue that I’ve struggled with off and on since I was very young. It’s not an issue unique to me. Depression slyly tricks someone into thinking that THIS particular bout of melancholy affects only me, magnifying the suckiness. But many of you have wrestled with this.

I’m talking about spiritual wanderlust. That feeling that you’ve missed the bus of your life’s calling. You’d be more than glad to get on, but you have no idea when the bus is coming back around, what other part of town to run to so you can catch it there, or if there’s an alternate bus you can take that will route you to your heaven-prescribed destination.

So this post on one of my favorite blogs, Stuff Christians Like, was a balm to read today.

I grew up in a faith tradition that taught God has a divine purpose for each and every person on earth, partly based on Jeremiah 1:5 and 29:11:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart, I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God was speaking specifically to Jeremiah and to Israel here, yes. But we were taught that God’s plans extend to the individual, and that he has a special mission for anyone who believes. Words and phrases from the keyword cloud of my religious upbringing include “pursue God’s will for your life,” “purpose,” “your calling,” “divine appointment.” What has God called you to do with your life?

The filters on my young ears picked up these messages as a direct message from God: “Christy, you’re kind of a big deal. One day you’re going to do something so spectacular, so significant, there’s not even going to be room for your awesomeness on this planet. I’ll have to move you to another planet just to fit all of your crazy-massive works of ending hunger, stopping deforestation, discovering unknown tribes through your jungle adventures and providing them medical care and clean water. I’ll name the planet ‘St. Christicus,’ because you’ll have the LEAD ROLE in my grand, eternal scheme. Big plans, Christy — BIG PLANS.”

I wanted my divine itinerary, stat! Move out of the way — me and God are going to do things! But as the years passed, I never discovered God’s specific will for my life or or heard from him in the miraculous, direct way I imagined about what, exactly, I should be doing with this existence he gave me.

Fast-forward to now. I’ve since decided that God uses you where you are and that our contributions can, in fact, be small and impactful at the same time. God isn’t a giant project manager in the sky handing out assignments and deadlines, writing you up for missing meetings that he never put on your Outlook calendar. We don’t have to actually do anything, in the sense that we control God’s calling on our lives. Just serve him, be open and he will direct the show.

Still. My mom and dad used to be foreign missionaries and pastors, and my mom just recently retired from 25+ years of being an elementary teacher at Christian schools. My sister works in the field of social work, heading the mental health division of a local children’s home. My brother and sister-in-law have pastored the same church for 25 years and have touched countless of lives in their community.

My upbringing, my relationship with God today, my family, and maybe even my temperament, to an extent, have all conspired to “set eternity in my heart.” This is a wonderful thing — if I knew what to do with it. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve done good things in my life, but nothing compared with the “big deal” dream of my adolescence. Recurring residual tugs in my heart periodically whisper, “There’s something else you should be doing, you trite web producer, you.”

When I’m sorting through this over-eternalizing invasion of the mind, I focus on training my perspective back to street-level instead of constantly viewing the world from a spiritual perch somewhere in outerspace, like I’m trying to do now. That’s why what Prodigal John said today over on Stuff Christians Like grabbed my attention:

The idea of “place” has been something I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately. I’ve got this overwhelming feeling that God wants me somewhere else. Whether that’s a product of immaturity or selfishness, there’s a part of me that loves to focus on there instead of here. … It’s always sexier to think your mission in life is going to involve some sort of adventure with a rope ladder over a ranging river full of piranha as you carry a vaccine and the hope of the gospel to a lost tribe of people that will eventually give you a wicked cool village nickname (mine would be Rik-Rok) and perhaps your own machete. It’s a lot less fun to think that maybe you’re already in a mission field and the annoying guy who you pass TPS reports to, the guy who sits near you in a sea of cubicles, the sniffler, yeah that guy, he needs to know about the love of God.

I get caught up in that attitude and when I do, I eventually start peppering God with geography questions. … Where do you want me? This doesn’t feel like where I’m supposed to be God, can you please give me a sign? Can you tell me where you want me to go? Is this job, is this relationship, is this church, is this city where you want me to be?

.. Do you know the first answer God always gives when we say, “God where do you want me to go?”

“In my presence. … I’ve got other destinations planned for you, far off places and close to home addresses that you can’t even imagine, but every destination, every adventure begins with the same starting location, in my presence.”

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